Argumentation 24 (2):139-152 (2010)

We are often faced with dilemmatic situations in which we must choose between alternative courses of action, both of which will have a bad outcome. It is commonly held that in such cases it is both uncontroversial and unproblematic that we have to choose the lesser evil. However, despite its frequent application in ethical decision-making, lesser evil reasoning is not well understood by most of its advocates and it thus occasions much misunderstanding and it presents a number of pitfalls. In this paper I shall thus, first, analyse the concept of a lesser evil; second, offer a critical assessment of lesser evil reasoning; third, discuss the most common pitfalls writers tend to fall into; and finally, explore the application of lesser evil reasoning to choices under uncertainty.
Keywords Ethical reasoning  Evil  Lesser evil reasoning  Practical reasoning  Principle of the lesser evil
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10503-009-9158-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,091
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Weighing Lives.John Broome - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
The Right and the Good.W. D. Ross - 1930 - Philosophy 6 (22):236-240.
The right and the good.W. Ross - 1932 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 39 (2):11-12.

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Risk-Benefit Analysis: From a Logical Point of View. [REVIEW]Georg Spielthenner - 2012 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 9 (2):161-170.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
38 ( #298,746 of 2,506,101 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,984 of 2,506,101 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes